W. E. B. Du Bois, Volume I (Magill Book Reviews)
Describing his eight years of researching and writing this biography of a monumental figure in African American history, Lewis remarks that the voyage has been “long, challenging, and fascinating.” Readers of W. E. B. DU BOIS will have similar feelings as they voyage through its nearly six hundred pages of narrative (and more than one hundred pages of notes), beginning with Du Bois’s upbringing in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and closing with his campaign against racial discrimination during World War I. All nineteen chapters that comprise the book are interesting and informative, especially those dealing with Du Bois’s well-known feud with Booker T. Washington, and his activities as an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and as editor of its magazine, THE CRISIS. Lewis synthesizes the most important information available in previous studies of Du Bois, and adds much new data from Du Bois’s diaries and other unpublished sources.
In a famous passage from his book THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK (1903), Du Bois remarked that African Americans feel a “double consciousness”—that of being an African and an American. Du Bois’s struggle to reconcile his opposing selves preoccupies Lewis and serves as the unifying theme of his study.
Throughout the book, Lewis carefully reconstructs the historical context in which Du Bois’s actions and writings occurred; thus large portions of the book are...
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
W. E. B. Du Bois, Volume I (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Describing his eight years of researching and writing this Pulitzer Prize-biography of a monumental figure in African American history, Lewis remarks that the voyage was ’long, challenging, and fascinating.” Readers of W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 will have similar feelings as they voyage through its nearly six hundred pages of narrative (and more than one hundred pages of notes).
The book opens with a brief overview of W. E. B. Du Bois’ career and achievements, then moves chronologically from his childhood in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, through his civil rights and literary activities during the period of World War I. Du Bois had at this point nearly forty-five years left to live; thus this biography covers only about half of his remarkable life.
In his best-known book, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Du Bois produced what Lewis rightly terms a revolutionary conception: The African American, Du Bois wrote, ever feels his two-ness-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings.” Du Bois’ “two-ness,” his often painful struggle to reconcile his African and American selves, preoccupies Lewis and serves as the unifying theme of his study.
As a child prodigy in Great Barrington during the 1870’s and early 1880’s, Du Bois was largely shielded from the virulent racism that afflicted most African Americans, especially those in the South, where the gains...
(The entire section is 1764 words.)